The French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin has been given a six-month suspended prison sentence for failing to report a paedophile priest.
Cardinal Barbarin, 68, who was tried in January in Lyon, will appeal against the verdict, announced today. He is nevertheless also expected to offer his resignation to Pope Francis as Archbishop of Lyon.
The judge, Brigitte Vernay, delivered the verdict of "guilty" for failing to report abuse of a minor between 2014 and 2015.
Yves Sauvayre, the lawyer representing one survivor, described it as "an extraordinary symbol, a great historical moment". he said.
One of the plaintiffs, François Devaux, co-founder of the victims association La parole libérée, described it as "a great victory for the protection of minors", AFP reported.
It comes just days after the conclusion of the Pope's summit on child sex abuse in Rome, and the subsequent lifting of a suppression order on reporting the conviction of Cardinal George Pell in Australia who is currently in custody and also planning to appeal.
Cardinal Barbarin was accused of covering up abuse by paedophile priest Bernard Preynat, who has confessed to the committing abuse at Lyon's Saint-Luc Parish, where he ran a large Catholic Scout group in the 1970s and 1980s. Preynat was moved to a new parish after his crimes were reported to Lyon Cardinal Albert Decourtray, who died in 1994. He has reportedly written to some of his victims and confessed abuse. He will be tried next year.
Nine people who said Father Preynat abused them brought the court action, saying church officials were aware of Father Preynat's actions for years, but allowed him to be in contact with children until 2015.
Cardinal Barbarin's lawyer says his client never obstructed justice because the statute of limitations had passed on the acts in question by the time Cardinal Barbarin was informed.
At the trial, Cardinal Barbarin said when he initially heard of the accusations, he encouraged one of the alleged victims to contact other victims and, "thanks to that," the case against Father Preynat was able to be built.
Cardinal Barbarin testified that he sought advice counsel on how to handle abuse accusations against Father Preynat from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. "Rome told me to remove him from his parish," AP reported Cardinal Barbarin as testifying. "I have never tried to hide facts and even less to cover these facts."
Under France's penal code, failure to report abuse carries a three-year jail term and a nearly $50,000 fine.